How to Stop Having Social Anxiety

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How to stop having social anxiety sounds like the name of an infomercial. I can picture it now… a man is trembling and shaking… cut to the “stop social anxiety now” cure. This revolutionary cure will only cost you $14.99. But wait, if you order now, you can get two social anxiety gizmos for the price of one. If only such a gizmo existed, social anxiety would be a thing of the past–and someone would be very rich.

No, when we talk about how to stop having social anxiety, we usually talk about the known treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or medication are the usual go-to’s, though these are not cures, they are treatments. You might relapse, you might not fully recover, you might… drop out… or never start in the first place.

The truth is that we still don’t have a great way to deal with this problem, namely because it’s a social problem.

Whether you want to admit it or not, social anxiety will pervade every part of your life if you let it. That means that getting help is difficult. Making that phone call is difficult. Hopefully, if you are in bad shape, someone will make it for you.

What does that leave us with?

If you’re reading this, let me be clear that you can’t plug a hole in a sinking ship with a toothpick. If your anxiety is severe, then CBT and medication are likely necessary.

But if it’s moderate, or if you are looking to deal with some symptoms on your own, then trying to help yourself is not a bad idea.

Let’s start with your core beliefs about yourself. Usually in CBT, you work backwards from your anxious thoughts to figure out your core beliefs. While this is helpful, I think it is also helpful to fully grasp what a core belief is by thinking about how you view yourself.

We all go through life with certain perceptions of ourselves.

These tend to fall in certain domains, and might be known as personality traits such as those identified by psychologist Hans Eysenck.

I like to think that certain traits kind of stick with you.

For example, are you…

Passive or aggressive?

Friendly or unfriendly?

Intelligent or dumb?

Irresponsible or responsible?

Impulsive or inhibited?

Expressive or reserved?

Active or lazy?

Moody or happy?

Obsessive or laidback?

When I was doing some reading about imposter syndrome, I found it interesting that many who live with this problem (thinking that they don’t belong in their job/position despite many achievements) grew up with a sense that they were not intelligent. While I can identify with many of the aspects of this syndrome, this one hit me squarely in the wrong way. Nope, I never thought that, because nobody told me that. I thought I could achieve anything I set my mind to. That was not one of my core beliefs.

Which was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me. Because I realized there were other areas of my life in which that was not true. Shouldn’t I feel confident in all areas that I can be the best me? What was holding me back?

I did not even realize that I held core beliefs about not being “good” at certain things.

I was never good at sports. I never expected to be good at sports. That is one of my core beliefs.

Etc.

Translate that to social anxiety, what were you “never good at” as a child? What did you “never expect to be good at?”

Dig into those questions and you will get at those core beliefs.

But here’s where it gets tricky. They are so ingrained in us that we take them as true.

I never questioned whether I could ever catch a baseball. I just assumed it was impossible. Still to this day, it seems impossible to me.

What seems impossible to you? Identify those things, and you will see where you are being held back.

Now here’s the shift—imagine, just for a moment, that you could wipe that slate clean. You are a completely clean slate with no preconceived notions of who you are and what you are like. If you start from scratch, can’t you build anything? Have you been trying to build a house on a crumbling foundation? You can’t do it. The house will never be sound.

Wipe out those core beliefs.

Every day this week, tell yourself, “I am a clean slate.” Imagine a giant eraser rubbing off the words that haunt you or point out your weaknesses. This sounds ridiculous I know. Just try it.

Oh and by the way..

In 2017, a study was conducted to develop and validate the Core Beliefs Questionnaire (CBQ). This scale had three versions: Trait version, Contigent version (beliefs related to specific situations), and Other version (beliefs about how others view you). What was found was that scores on the three tests decreased from before treatment to after treatment for social anxiety disorder. This means that core beliefs are changed through treatment. If you can get at these beliefs and change them, you might see the same effects.

Until then, I’ll keep trying to catch that baseball.

 

Sources:

Wong QJJ, Gregory B, Gaston JE, Rapee RM, Wilson JK, Abbott MJ. Development and validation of the Core Beliefs Questionnaire in a sample of individuals with social anxiety disorder. J Affect Disord. 2017;207:121-127. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.09.020.

Poetry Contest: The Top Five Nominees

Thank you to everyone who participated in the social anxiety poetry contest. I have chosen the top five entries that were submitted by December 31st, 2017. Now it is time to vote for your favorite! Read through the following five poems and then cast your vote in the polling box at the bottom of the page. Voting closes January 31st, 2018.

Update: The grand prize will be a Humble Bundle digital book package worth over $150 including a digital copy of my book “The Anxiety Workbook” as well as the books “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks” and “Real World Mindfulness for Beginners.”

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Hold On

by Elisabeth Porter

I feel trapped in a box and tightly sealed, traveling on ship across the sea
Everything in me wants to say “Why ME??”
It’s a claustrophobic atmosphere with many hours of feeling sick
It’s a claustrophobic atmosphere with not much room to think
It’s a claustrophobic atmosphere where anxiety seems to be the only food to eat

But you know what?!? —
The box can be a blessing, the ship can be your guide, the box can be your blessing—do you know the reason why?
The box is a protection,
the ship leads a specific direction,
and the anxiety is being used to make you into a better you.

So though your feeling sick, and everything feels hopeless— hold on.

Social Anxiety

by J Michael Wright
He wanted to slam his fists into the air, wishing they would pound away at the veneer of this fake reality.

He wanted to scream at the passersby, yell that they were trapped in cells designed by digital walls and arbitrary, archaic Patriarchal rules.

You’re not welcome if you fit the following: fat, gay or trans, a person of color, female, pregnant, mentally ill, if you’re eccentric, and the list goes on.

You must be “This” white, male, straight, physically and mentally fit to ride this ride.

All others may exist until they no longer provide a use, and then it’s curtains on your goals, dreams, aspirations, bills, your ability to exist – until you find a new place – but the clock is always ticking and it’s only a matter of time before the bell tolls for thee, and the process starts over again.

Money and materials are the only ways to prove your worth, and people only look if you’re pretty based on their standards.

Screw the Golden rule; let’s adopt Platinum instead: “Treat others how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated.”

But the cacophony of voices demanding that he conform overwhelms him, and his pleas begging people to wake up are ignored, so he crawls into a ball and wishes the World away.

It never goes away.

The harshness of this fake reality chips away at his steely constitution until there’s nothing left, and he cries from being berated by people on-line, people at work, his friends and family, drained by their desperation of being successful in this fake world.

So, he quits, and he starts the clock over and over again, but the years pass and fade, and “You’re not getting any younger, babe,” so he stresses about his future and what kind of partner can he be if he can’t properly provide.

He feels ugly, feels misunderstood, feels alone despite being surrounded by people, and all he can do is face the day, one at a time, and take things in stride because he’s not giving up, just giving in.

Home

by “Kandice”

Mind succumbed by familiar loneliness, dark, empty, distant
Hands dripping like a facet, cold, wet, tremors
Heart pounding to my eardrums, thump, thump, thump
Breath escaping my body faster than my mind, labored, unsheathed, arrhythmic
Swallowing, quickly, last night’s dinner before heads turn, pathetic, unnatural, anxiety

Another t-shirt stained brown with sweat, bleach, money, disposal
Laying next a pillow collecting tears for decades, obsession, restless, fear
Dated sweaters to hide drenched shirts daily, insecurity, emergency, desperate

Laptop in bed, lying awake with chocolates and television, safe, peaceful, home

 

My Coma Has Come

by K. A. Kumi

My coma has come.

Wide eyed, stiff necked, pulse flooded,
extremity trembled, mind muddled, sterility.

My coma has come.

Tongue spun, shame bathed, function failed,
cringe caressed, mired mood, aridity.

My coma is coming.

I’ll puke & piss & pill & pace &
pine & ponder & pray in preparation.

My coma is cold.

It sees me shivering in sun shunned of warmth universal,
yet sweating in sight of their every iced gaze.

My coma is king.

And I shall crucify myself for all witness,
ne’er shown whole, but hung of my own hand.

When my coma has come.

There’s Always Tomorrow

by John Doe

I could have been great
I still could be
I could have been free
I might still be
I could have found hope
Then I should see
That I’m no worse
Than those around me
That I too can grow
And be my best me
I’ll do that tomorrow
Today I anxiety